Posts Tagged With: culture

Apologetics: Connecting the Canon to Culture—and Vice Versa

In the Scriptures, we see those who hold to the faith also hold diligently and stringently to the Word of God. Our aim in defending the faith is to point to what God says. While people may ask questions of us, we can (like Jesus) ask questions of them to penetrate their worldview to make them think. The approach depends on to whom we are ministering.

When Jesus talked to the Jewish leaders and those at the Feast, where did He start? He started with pointing out something that was around them, then bringing in the Scriptures (as we’ve seen before). When he taught the disciples and lectured the Pharisees, he would start with a story or a saying or even a Scripture, then direct them even further in to what God said on the matter. But the time frame of how quickly he came to the Scripture depended on who they were.

Take a look at Acts. In chapter 2, Paul starts with how in the world the Jews from differing countries and languages could possibly understand these uneducated, common men (see Acts 4:13). But he quickly went to the Scriptures in Joel about the Spirit coming, then to the Psalms about a man who died but rose again. Why? For the Jews, the Law (the OT) was their authority, so he didn’t need to take time to make that case.

Acts 17:16-34 is a bit different.

  • He started with the idols he saw in Athens down main street, and noted how religious they were.
  • He pointed to a place where it said, “To an unknown God.”
  • Then he used that to springboard into a conversation that there is a God who made everything whom you can know.
  • He points to their own poetry from Epimenides.

Where did Paul start? In the same spot he started with the Jews—in their culture. But since the Scriptures were not as known and they served another, it would take time for them to get to there—to establish the authority.  But he did appeal to the general revelation of creation and their understanding of the supernatural and an unknown deity to move on to the notion that there is a God who has made Himself known—through Jesus Christ and His resurrection. 

So God calls us to make sure we not only know our Bibles, but know the people and the culture to whom we wish to apply and share that Bible.

This is what it comes down to. If it’s all just about our relationship with Christ, then we will only go so far as we want to go in our study. One would hope that we would study and learn because we love Christ and we want to learn as much about the one we love as possible.

But it’s not just about our relationship with Christ as a Christ—it’s about our love for those who bear His image. Believers and non-believers will have questions, share their convictions, make their contentions.

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Upcoming Series at ARBC: Apologetics—Not Apologies

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apol·o·get·ics

1 : systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine)

2 : a branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity

The culture has questions galore regarding Christianity. The Bible has the answers to those questions. Do we believe? Do we have ears to hear? Will we be ready to defend the faith so others will believe?

April 7: What We Believe… and Why We Should Defend It (John 7:37-39)

April 14 Why Are Christians Such Hypocrites? (John 7:53-8:11)

April 21 Why Do Christians Follow Such an Old Book? (John 8:31-36)

April 28 Why Does a Good God Allow Suffering? (John 9)

May 12 Why is Christianity So Repressive to Women? (John 12:1-8)

May 26 Why Does Christianity Say You Worship One God in Three Persons? (John 10)

June 2  Why Does a Good God Allow Such Evil? (John 11)

June 16 Why Are Christians So Intolerant? Aren’t All Religions Basically the Same? (John 14:1-6)

(* May 5th is our Senior Adult Sunday with a special guest speaker, Russ McCracken.  May 19 is our Student-Led Sunday with our Youth Pastor, Steven Diaz, preaching.)

May God use this to magnify Christ, mature in Christ, minister in the name of Christ, mobilize for the cause of Christ, and multiply for the Kingdom of Christ!

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Where the Spirit of Herod Pervades: Christmas is About Life in a Culture of Death

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod.This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
(Matthew 2:13-18)

So many say that we are in the land of the living, but in all honesty we are in the land of the dying. The moment we are born, we move toward death—it’s inevitable, unpleasant to think about, but it’s honest.

We live in a time where many work in maternity wards to help bring life in to the world. We have hospitals that seek to heal life. We have assisted living places that by and large help during the more seasoned times of a life. This country especially has been amazing in taking care of the human body.

We also live in a culture of death as well. Homicide and suicide rates skyrocket; the abortion industry takes the lives of 1.3 million unborn children each year; and controversies over end-of-life, quality-of-life issues have a significant part of the cultural discourse. These among many other issues in regards to life.

There is nothing new under the sun.  The most  autocratic rulers come into power with the notion that they are able to determine which life has value and which doesn’t.  Such is the case with Herod.  Wise men from the east show up and ask, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?  For we saw his star when it rose and  have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).  Herod and the Jews were troubled.  Herod called the scholars to search the OT Scriptures to ascertain where he would be  born–and they knew the  answer:  Micah 5:2 said, “Bethlehem.”  Herod wanted to eliminate the competition, so he ordered the infanticide–one prophecied back in Jeremiah, about 600 years prior to this event.

Our culture has the spirit of Herod.  So often life is not valuable in an absolute, intrinsic sense–for so many, life is only valuable as long as our particular quality of life is what we believe it to be, or if that life is convenient to us and doesn’t interrupt our goals, desires, and yes rule over our lives.  Our fallen flesh believes that we are lord of all we survey, so no one should try to offer any competition.  

But our lives matter to God.  This is not how God created His world–He created life and sent His Son into this world to rescue life.  Life matters to Him.  God created us to bear His image in this world.  But the temptation, as first brought to light in Genesis 3, is that we “want to be like God, knowing good from evil.”  But we are not like God in that God is always holy and right in what he does.  We are creatures who are in need of rescue–fallen and sinful.  We are not wired to be kings.  We are wired to have a King.  

No king will do aside from Jesus!

Categories: Christmas, pro-life, sermons | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Share the Gospel with Muslims

J.T. Smith at The Gospel Coalition gives a great article on How to Share the Gospel with Muslims.  His points are as follows as “words of counsel to all who seek to make Christ supreme among Muslims”:

  1. Ground yourself in the fact that God is sovereign in salvation. “We believe that a Muslim coming to faith is not intrinsically connected to our form of contextualization, but rests solely on God’s divine intervention (Dan. 4:35; Ps. 115:3; John 6:64-65) and our humble obedience to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8; Matt. 9:38, 28:19-20). God is not concerned with glorifying a method; he is concerned with glorifying his Son.”
  2. Be diligent in working to understand the local culture and determine the best way to present the gospel.
    1. Know Islam. We need to ask ourselves, What are Muslims longing for? What keeps Muslims from attaining this? Don’t be afraid to read the Qur’an or other religious sources. These things will give you great insight into Muslims hearts and minds.
    2. Use their language. When I say “language” I’m referring to two things. First, speak their actual language. If you want to see a church planted among Arabic-speaking Muslims, learn Arabic. If you’re working among Pakistanis, learn Urdu. If among Bengalis, learn Bengali. Second, speak the language (figuratively) that communicates to them. My wife and I lived and worked among Arabic speakers. We learned early on that we could not get people to listen by presenting a beautiful apologetic syllogism proving Jesus is God. We had to use stories, parables, and passages from their religious books.
  3. Center your gospel presentation on Jesus and the Bible.  “I am not against the proper use of the Qur’an in evangelism. I am concerned with how much we use it. We should not give it center place in our gospel presentation. Jesus is the only way to the Father. Muslims must believe Jesus is their savior, and this belief can only come from the Scriptures. The story of redemption cannot be told from the Qur’an.”
  4. Don’t force your ideas on them. “The gospel will take on a form of the culture that it is speaking to; if it doesn’t, it will not be understood. But the gospel will also speak with a prophetic voice within the culture that calls for transformation. It goes in and calls out. Our goal is to preach the gospel of Christ from the Scriptures and let the Spirit transform lives and communities.”

You can read the rest of this in full here

Categories: evangelism, Muslims | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the Bible Inconsistent on Marriage?

A picture was floating around on Facebook that caught my attention!  It was reflecting on what the Bible has to say about marriage from a skeptic’s point of view.  The point is to show how inconsistent Christians and those who hold to the Bible are in regards to this topic. 

First, the picture:

Marriage Equals

And so the beat goes on from the skeptics.  The picture above outlines all of the types of ‘unions’ they say were endorsed by God/the Scriptures, thus showing that even the Bible doesn’t have those parameters.  It seems that skeptics believe they are the ones who read the Scriptures better than we do—but they have a flawed hermeneutic.  Their arguments are nothing new, but they are new to some.

I would recommend you reading the book by Paul Copan entitled Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God—and to this issue specifically, go to chapters 10 and 11 (pp. 110-123).  He works through the  issues that most skeptics of the Scriptures bring up to show Christian’s supposed hypocrisy in saying that marriage is between one man and one woman.  I have distilled some of Copan’s comments and added some of my own to help us sort through this.  I recognize that there will still be some who are not satisfied with this explanation.  Even so, please consider!

  1. The ideal is outlined in Genesis 1-2, reiterated in Matthew 19:1-10 by Jesus Himself.  Genesis 1-2 shows an equality between male and female.  God created both and made them both in His image (Genesis 1:26-27.  In the Ten Commandments, the people of Israel were to honor their father and mother (Exodus 20:12 Leviticus 19:3; Deuteronomy 5:16; 21:18-21).  They were to observe the teachings of the father and the mother (Proverbs 6:20; 23:22).  Box #1 in the picture above indicates that the wives are subordinate/subservient to the husbands.  Both are equal, just with differing roles.  And yes, purity mattered for both men and women.  Sin mattered because what a person does does not just affect them personally but everyone else. 
  2. The most basic of literary studies show that understanding the culture, times, and context of when something was written tells 90% of the story.  Notice every one of these examples are from the first five books of the Scriptures.  There were customs observed  in these Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) times that God permitted to continue, but were never intended to be what God ordained.  Thus, the issue of concubines was never approved of by God (see Genesis 1:26-27; Matthew 19:1-10), but even with the concubines, God used this to help women in a society that thought little of them to take care and provide for them.  Don’t put 2012 standards on ANE times.  In box #3, the slave/handmaiden of a wife, such as Hagar, was given to Abraham by Sarah due to her fear that their line would be discontinued.  It was a foolish thing to do, and tried to make a shortcut on the promise of God (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:1-6). And we are still paying for this today, with the sons of Ishmael (Arabs) and the sons of Isaac (Jews) still fighting today.  No, not a good thing—as God warned in Genesis 1.
  3. The levirate marriage (where, if a husband dies, the brother takes the woman as a wife) is intended to help continue on the lineage of the husband if a son had not already been born into that family, but also to take care of the wife—an important matter in those days, even if it’s not so much in our day.  Again, don’t put 2012 standards on this.  It’s not only bad practice, but arrogant. 
  4. Just because something is described in the Scriptures does not mean it is prescribed.  Copan brings up the issue of Thomas Jefferson and his supposed relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings.  But with Thomas’ age (64) and ill health, it was more likely that his younger brother Randolph committed these acts.  Yet, even if Jefferson did, that did not take away from the notion that all men are “created equal.”  In the ANE during these times, custom permitted a married man to take a concubine—for polygamy was taken for granted.  Yet, in Deuteronomy 17:17, the warning for future kings strictly said that it would turn away his heart, nor shall he prosper (King Solomon was a prime example).  Leviticus 18:18 forbids polygamy and incest—something Samuel’s father Elkanah did with Hannah and Peninnah (1 Samuel 1:6).
  5. The laws that God laid down helped protect the neglected and unloved from the brutality of the ANE ancient customs.  Exodus 21:7-11 speaks of the servant girl as a prospective wife (go ahead and read it—I’ll be here when you’re done). Everything that’s brought up is not ideal, but here is an example of case law.  But the shock of a father selling his daughter?  This was done out of economic desperation, so they were sent to work to work off the debt owed by the family.  On top of this, a son is mentioned about the possibility of taking this person as his wife.  Polygamy?  Not necessarily—for God has not endorsed that!  It’s more of a relationship of room and board, with the term ‘marital rights’ coming from the same Hebrew word as that of a dwelling place (Deuteronomy 33:27).  So, if the man rejects this servant as his wife, she is to be given her freedom.  If he wants to marry her, on board as a daughter.  If he marries another, she is to receive food, clothing, and lodging.  
  6. The rapist must marry his victim?  In reading Deuteronomy 22:23-29, we see on closer inspection what the issue is.  The verse mentioned in the picture above is not ‘rape,’ but sexual relations between two consenting adults, which is fornication.  The word ‘seizes’ is a word that means ‘takes/catches’ and is a weaker word than the word for ‘rape.’  Once they are discovered, the man is shamed and guilty of seducing an unengaged woman. But while she is pressured, she is complicit, not acting against her will. ‘They’ are discovered, not ‘he.’ Though both complicit, the man will bear the judgment.  And since the woman was violated and would have a difficult time finding a man under these circumstances, this man who is ultimately responsible is responsible to take care of her.  He violated her, he takes care of her—but only by her consent here. She (along with her father) are under no obligation to marry this man. 
  7. Male Soldier/POW?  This is from Deuteronomy 21:10-14.  Again, like the above, this is the way God provided for the women to be taken care of as POWs.  The shaving of the head, trimming of nails, and the new wardrobe were ways of them to be integrated into the society of Israel.  If there was a problem between the two, the woman is set free from that problematic household. 
  8. While we may think by God permitting an action that means He approves of it, remember that God does not immediately judge sinful actions.  There are many more issues we can talk about.  But by God addressing an issue that took place in the ANE culture does not mean that he approves of it.  Remember, they were new residents in the Promised Land of Canaan who had established their own customs.  But this did not change the underlying promises and commandments did not change.  God is always looking out for those who are the most downtrodden and outcast in society. 

At a later date, I hope to address some of the other issues raised in the picture above.  In the meantime, be responsible on how you approach a piece of literature—the Scriptures included. 

Categories: apologetics, Marriage | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

“If You Haven’t Preached an Hour, You Haven’t Preached”

On a previous trip to Trinidad, I was asked to preach for their morning worship service. I remember asking Pastor Roddie Taylor how long I should preach. I told him that in the States, most wanted the sermon finished in 20-30 minutes, but I usually went some over. I’ll never forget what he said:

“Matthew Perry, in Trinidad, if you haven’t preached an hour, you haven’t preached.”

OK, then! Interesting regarding how various cultures view this. I remember hearing Mark Dever speak of a time he went to preach in South Africa in the late 1990s or early 2000s. He preached for an hour, and respecting the time, concluded. One of the leaders of the church stood up and said, “We sense you have more to say on the matter–could you please continue.” And he did for another hour. Dever observed that South Africa had only had television since 1980 and noted that their attention span was considerably longer than he was used to as a pastor in Washington, D.C.

People vary on this topic. But my thought is this: we do not have many opportunities to get before the Word during the week. If your wheelhouse is 20 minute sermons, will spending another 15-20 minutes under the Word really put a dent into our seemingly busy lives? Many churches in the States are flourishing with pastors who faithfully deliver the Word for an hour. They have time to set the table, put out a feast, then help digest.

Isn’t it worth the time? What think ye?

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A Deadly Example of Cultural Christianity: Lessons From Ananias and Sapphira

Everyone at some point in their lives wants to fit in and contribute—or at least having others think just as much.  When baseball players take steroids, they do so so they will heal more quickly to return to the field or court to contribute to the team’s success (and not lose their jobs in the process).  Those in business may risk stealing ideas from a co-worker and taking credit for something that brings them many accolades.

The same temptation happens in church world—especially in the South.  For the longest time, the culture in the South was, “If it’s Sunday, you should be in church.”  It was the thing to do!  In other parts of the country, it is not culturally acceptable to be in church.  So many respond to what is culturally acceptable, depending on the region of the country.

Ananias and Sapphira fell into this trap.  In Acts 4:32-37, we see that the majority of those in the early church did not consider what they had as something that belonged to them.  This was not a precursor to Communism, because Communism is mandated by the government and therefore involuntary.  This giving was fueled by all that Christ had given them as outlined in His Word.  Great power and grace was on the church. 

Ananias and Sapphira, however, felt they needed to give a pretense of this same type of self-sacrifice, but secretly they plotted to keep some of it back.

5:1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things (ESV).

Peter makes the point that they did not have to give everything, but they had said they would, and thus they lied to God and to the church.  This reminds one of the story of Achan in Joshua 7 when he stole some of the devoted things and hid them in his tent.  His theft caused sin to come into the camp and it affected everything, even as they went into battle against an inferior enemy.  Achan, Ananias, and Sapphira were dealt with strongly—executed even—to keep sin out of the community and causing great fear to come upon those inside and outside the church!

Take inventory of your lives!  Are you associating with those whom you are because you just want to fit it, or because it’s the right and true thing to do?  No one is immune to this temptation!  Otherwise, we’re not just lying to God or to our group of people we fellowship with, but we are lying to ourselves as well.

Categories: church, Church Life | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

What Slogans Say About Our Worldview

Last night at our REACH group, we studied 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, where I taught on “What Slogans Say About Our Worldview.”  In 6:12-13, the Corinthians church bandied about two sayings that summed up their thinking: 

  • “All things are lawful for me”;
  • “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.” 

The Roman culture believed that our desires and cravings should be indulged and gratified.  If one is thirsty, you get something to drink to the limit.  If one is hungry, gluttony is permissible!  If one has a certain sexual appetite, then gratify that desire ASAP.

The advertising slogans and common sayings of our day speak much about how we view life.  Consider this website which gives their top ten advertising slogans of all time:

  • “A diamond is forever” (DeBeers, debuted 1938);
  • “Just do it” (Nike, debuted 1988);
  • “Got milk?” (California Milk Processor Board, 1993);
  • “Where’s the Beef?” (Wendy’s, 1984);
  • “Great Taste, Less Filling” (Miller Brewing Company, 1975);
  • “Don’t Leave Home Without It” (American Express, 1975);
  • “Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands” (M&M, 1954);
  • “Does She … Or Doesn’t She?” (Clairol, 1957)
  • “You’re in Good Hands with Allstate” (1956);
  • “We Try Harder” (Avis, 1963)

These slogans speak to various mindsets in our culture that may or may not be valid.  For instance, the Wendy’s insanely popular commercial “Where’s the Beef?”  Check out the original advertisement:

Now what does this speak to?  A common problem with burgers back was the fact that they were advertising hamburgers, but giving very little … hamburger.  It was unfair and unjust, speaking to a deep-seeded notion that we have as image-bearers of God for honesty and fair play—yet in a sinful world, we recognize this doesn’t always happen. 

What about the Miller Lite commercial?  “Great Taste, Less Filling.”  Does this speak to where we want all the great effects of this beverage without the consequences of that side effect of ‘beer belly-itis’?  Could be.  It’s the same effect as diet drinks, which provide the caffeine without all the sugar.  This does speak to the notion of how we do want to indulge in whatever behavior we like but without the consequences of that sin. 

What about the Clairol commercial? 

We all fight aging, even if we do not externally act on it or not.  Through clothing, exercise, dieting, or other methods such as this, we have been taught that aging should be fought, not embraced.  Proverbs 16:31 says, “Gray hair is a crown of glory;  it is gained in a righteous life.”  Proverbs 20:29 says, “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.”  Our culture says, “Age bad.”  Scripture says it’s a glory.  Let’s beware the subtle messages.

Any other slogans come to mind that speak to how our culture thinks? 

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Religious Discrimination or Company Policy? Was Home Depot Really in the Wrong?

I read on Yahoo! News about a cashier of Home Depot in Okeechobee, Florida (northern lip of Lake Okeechobee) who was fired for wearing a button which said, “One Nation Under God, Indivisible.”  Trevor Keezer said, “"I’ve worn it for well over a year and I support my country and God.  I was just doing what I think every American should do, just love my country."

I read this paragraph, and immediately my hackles arose because I thought this was a clear case of religious discrimination.  “We live in America!  This shouldn’t happen.  We have rights of free speech in the First Amendment!” 

But I had to read the rest of the article.  Home Depot, Inc., has clear dress code rules, which are posted clearly:

An excerpt of the article:

A Home Depot spokesman said Keezer was fired because he violated the company’s dress code.

"This associate chose to wear a button that expressed his religious beliefs. The issue is not whether or not we agree with the message on the button," Craig Fishel said. "That’s not our place to say, which is exactly why we have a blanket policy, which is long-standing and well-communicated to our associates, that only company-provided pins and badges can be worn on our aprons."

Fishel said Keezer was offered a company-approved pin that said, "United We Stand," but he declined.

I believe this shed light on the entire incident.  One can understand why Home Depot would put these rules in place.  Given the variety of beliefs people have in the United States, all sorts of buttons and patches saying all sorts of things could be worn (Christian or otherwise) that would not be in place. 

Was Home Depot wrong?  Given the clarity of their dress code policy, I say, “No.”  They were well within their right to enforce company policy, especially to a resistant employee who would not comply. 

What think ye?  Is this religious discrimination, or the enforcement of clear company policy?

Categories: culture, discrimination, Religious Liberties | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Gospel in Contemporary Culture (Begg)

Hear this prophetic word from Alistair Begg!

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